A Memory – The Major Lunar Standstill 2006

Remembering Margaret Curtis Teacher and Archaeologist, born 7 June 1941; died 26 March 2022

Isle of Lewis

Marske

I picked up these two lovely fossils fragments yesterday from the beach at Marske.

This is a fragment of a large ammonite. The chambers within the ammonite have been mineralised, the sea has eroded the fossil along its suture lines.

This piece of limestone contains the fossilised remains of corals that lived on the bed of a warm sea during the Carboniferous period 325 million years ago.

This is the cloud that decided to shed its load on to us.

Redcar Fossils

There are a number of plaques built into the path of the promenade along Redcar seafront. Each plaque is comprised of smaller plaques, which presumably represent different aspects of the town and coast.

This lovely plaque shows Ammonites, a fairly common fossil which occurs in the Jurassic rocks of the coast and are often found on the beaches from Staithes to Robin Hood’s Bay.

If I were to chose a fossil to represent Redcar, it would be Gryphea, known locally as Devil’s Toenails. Gryphea are the fossil remains of a member of the oyster family and are commonly found on the beaches from Redcar to Marske. Large fossil oyster beds can be easily seen at low tide on the mudstone scars that run from Redcar beach into the sea.

There are also ammonites to be found at Redcar, they are nowhere near as common as the Devil’s Toenails and they don’t frequently weather-out of the rocks as they do further down the coast. The specimens that I have seen in the oyster beds at Redcar are generally quite large, typically between 20-50 cm across.

Fossilised fragments of large Ammonites do occasionally wash up onto the Beach. I found the one below on Marske beach.

Redcar Rocks have official protection, the scars have been designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest. Please do not try and cut any fossils out of the rocks, it’s possible to walk along the beach from Redcar to Marske and collect a pocketful of fossils, especially Devil’s Toenails, from the foreshore.

A day out with Mr Chappell

Dialstone House – Cold Kirby Moor – Thirlby Bank – Whitestone Cliff – Fairies Parlour – Hambleton Down – Boltby Scar Hillfort – Cleveland Road

You can read Graeme’s account of The Fairies Parlour here

Near Moor

Wandering Red Way onto Near Moor

Near Moor is a moor on the western margins of the Cleveland Hills. The moor is at its highest in the north-east where it meets the wooded escarpment edge of the Cleveland hills, it then slopes gently southwards towards Crabdale. Near moor is bounded by Far Moor To the East, Pamperdale Moor to the South and the valley of Scarth Nick and Scarth Wood Moor to the west.

The moor is managed for grouse shooting. The vegetation of the moor is predominantly heather with patches of moorland grasses and sedges.

The rocks here are mainly Jurassic Sandstones, formed 170 million years ago in shallow estuaries and deltas. To the north, below the escarpment edge, there are many old jet workings. Blocks of ‘White Flint’ can be found on the moor-top.

Both Near Moor and the adjacent Scarth Wood Moor were used by our ancient ancestors, there are the remains of ancient walls, enclosures, trackways and cairns dotted across both moors.

There are a number of cup-marked rocks on the moor, all are very weathered and barely recognisable.

There are the remains of quarries on the margins of the moor, local stone masons also used the prehistoric walls as a source of stone.

Boulby Alum Quarries

I needed to unravel a few knots and put some ground under my boots. I was undecided as to where to go…time for the coin. A flip of the coin as to whether it would be moorland or coastal, a second flip to decide on a old favourite on a new site. The outcome, coastal/new.

A while ago I was reading about the Boulby Alum Quarries, I’d never visited the place, I did once try to get there via the the Loftus quarries but failed. I had read that Boulby was one of the best examples of its kind in the country, so that was that, Boulby was the place.

I walked along the Cleveland way to Rockhole, looking for a path into the quarry. All I could find was the trace of a track heading towards Rockhole Hill. I followed the track which got fainter and fainter and took me deep into the quarry. The vegetation got higher and thicker and the track eventually petered-out completely at a large pile of droppings. I’d been following a rabbit track which had led me into a deep thicket of gorse and brambles. I looked for a way forward but couldn’t seen anything that resembled a path.

I had a choice, try and push forward through the quarry or retrace my steps back up to the main footpath and start again. I decided to push on and look for another path. I thought that if I could skirt around Rockhole hill towards the cliff edge I would come across a path, a simple enough plan. The problem was that the foot of the hill and the quarry floor is covered in chest-high rosebay willowherb, bracken, gorse, brambles and boulders, there are also a number of small, steep-sided beck channels concealed beneath the vegetation. The flanks of the hill are steep but less treacherous, they are covered with deep heather and large, impenetrable patches of gorse and brambles. It took me about half and hour of constant scrambling and slipping to cover the short distance to the cliff edge.

Much to my relief, my efforts eventually led to an overgrown track that looked as though it was heading towards the main quarry and alum works. After that it was fairly plain sailing, there were still patches of gorse and brambles to get around but the ground was fairly level and the surrounding vegetation was fairly low.

Moving along the track I began to noticed low walls, the remains of a building, a stone-covered culvert and two beautiful circular stone-lined tanks. The production of Alum started here in the mid 1600s, the Rockhole quarries and structures are the oldest part of the site.

I continued to walk north into the later sections of the works and suddenly found myself standing in the quarry, an amphitheatre of alum, ruins of massive stone walls and heaps of alum shale, facing the sea and backed by the massive sandstone cliffs, a wonderful sight.

The cliffs are never static, large blocks litter the site, some bearing fossils.

Walking around the ruins, the mind starts to wander. It is easy to forget that this was a place of industry and imagine that these are the remnants of a cliff-edge citadel whose myths are still waiting to be discovered.

These cliffs are the highest point on the east coast of our island. The land above the quarry has been occupied for thousands of years, its soils contains the evidence of the district’s earliest house. Archaeologist Steve Sherlock has also found evidence of prehistoric salt production and jet working on the land behind the clifftop, evidence of early industry, albeit on a small scale. Our prehistoric ancestors performed rituals and buried their dead on these clifftops. It is also the location of the famous Saxon Princess burial.

I left the quarries and followed the path that runs between Rockhole Hill and the cliff edge. The track is becoming overgrown, an indication that this site doesn’t see many visitors. A couple of short sections of the path have eroded away, this is not a place for anyone who is nervous of walking along a cliff edge. The track leads back to the Cleveland Way via a couple of lovely tiny woods, shoehorned into the short valleys running down to the cliff tops.

If you are going to visit the quarries I would advise that you avoid following the track down into the Rockhole Quarry, my legs are covered in small cuts, pin-cushioned by brambles and gorse and it took a fair bit of effort to escape the quarry. The cliffs along this part of the coast can be unstable, the track around Rockhole Hill is difficult to find but definitely the one to take, however it is not without danger and should be approached with great caution.

Secrets released in floating egg

Penwith

A recent visit to family in Cornwall gave me the opportunity to have a look around this beautiful far corner of England.